By Miroslav Djuric, DVM, CAB International, Wallingford, UK.
Milk is the EU's number one agricultural product in terms of value, accounting for approximately 15% of agricultural output with approximately 148 million tonnes of cow milk produced in 2014. The dairy sector is also of significant economic and social importance in the EU, with over 650,000 specialised dairy farmers,almost 18 million dairy cows and 1.2 million people engaged in dairying (Eurostat census 2010).
The EU milk supply was managed for more than 30 years by the EU milk quota system which expired on 1 April 2015. This system provided a national quota and an individual quota fixed for each producer or purchaser, with a penalty (‘superlevy') payable by individual farmers and countries who exceeded their quotas.
By Miroslav Djuric, DVM, Editor of Dairy Science Abstracts
Milk quotas in the European Union (EU) will be abolished from the 1 April 2015, exactly 31 years after its introduction.
The Dairy Produce Quota Regulations were introduced by the European Economic Community (EEC) on the 2 April 1984 and were originally due to run until 1989, but have been extended many times since then.
According to this regulation, the milk market in the EU is regulated by a quota system. Every member country has a production quota which it distributes to farmers. Whenever a member country exceeds its quota, it has to pay a penalty (‘super levy’) to the EU.
Abolition of milk quotas has been heavily criticized by farmers. However, in the light of globalization of dairy markets in recent years, together with increased consumption of dairy products outside the EU, milk quotas have long outlived their usefulness for EU countries. It is estimated that global milk production between 2008 and 2013, for example, increased by over 90 billion litres - equivalent to over half of the entire EU production of 160 million litres.
Apart from distorting production across the EU, national quotas have facilitated dairy market development in other countries. For example, New Zealand and Australia, which produce only 5% of global milk, account for 40% of global exports of dairy products. Meanwhile, the EU accounts for 24% of the global milk production, and 24% of world cheese, butter, skimmed milk powder (SMP) and whole milk powder (WMP) exports, according to figures presented by CLAL (dairy brokerage firm).